Five ‘nomadic businessmen’ lose challenge over tax ruling

Members of Rathkeale Traveller family did not provide a ‘scrap’ of evidence to support claims

Five men who claimed, as members of the Irish Travelling community, they are "nomadic businessmen" not tax resident in Ireland in certain years have lost their legal challenge arising out of some income tax assessments issued by the Criminal Assets Bureau.

At the High Court on Friday, Mr Justice Michael Twomey refused to overturn a tax appeal commissioner's ruling upholding a CAB decision the five could not appeal some tax assessments raised by CAB against them.

CAB had said they could not appeal because of their failure to file tax returns or pay tax for those particular years subject of the assessments.

Because the five had not provided a “scrap” of documentary evidence to support their claims they were not tax resident in Ireland in the relevant years, the commissioner’s task was “very straight forward”, he said.


There was no basis for claims by the five they were not given reasons for the commissioner’s decision, he held.

All five were at the hearing before the commissioner, were represented by counsel and a tax adviser and could not but have known, despite the “brevity” of the commissioner’s decision, why he found against them, the judge held.

The proceedings were taken by John Sheridan Senior, John Sheridan, Thomas Sheridan, Daniel Sheridan and Patrick Sheridan, all related to each other. All said they carry out business in various EU countries outside Ireland and stay in different caravans abroad when doing so.

They said, when they are in Ireland, they reside in Rathkeale, Co Limerick.

CAB had in 2016 issued income tax assessments for the years 2004 to 2014 on John Sheridan Snr, John Sheridan and Thomas Sheridan. In the same year, it issued assessments for the years 2006 and 2014 for Daniel Sheridan. Those four are tarmac contractors, the court heard.

An assessment for the years 2009 to 2014 was issued in 2016 for Patrick Sheridan, who said he was self-employed.

All five disputed the assessments on grounds including they were not resident in Ireland for tax purposes for each of the individual tax years. They say, due to their nomadic lifestyles and because their tarmac business is conducted outside Ireland, they have spent minimal periods of time here.

Their High Court action arose out of an April 2018 decision by an appeals commissioner to allow them bring appeals concerning most, but not all, of the assessments.

The commissioner said some of the assessments issued by CAB could not be appealed on grounds including self-assessed tax liabilities had not been paid and income tax returns had not been filed. The Sheridans argued before the Commissioner they should be allowed appeal all of the assessments.

In his judgment on Friday, Mr Justice Twomey said it was important to note, when the five appeared before the appeals commissioner, they provided no oral evidence in support of their counsel’s submission they were not tax resident here.

That meant the only document created by them in support of a finding one way or the other was the tax returns they had filed in some years which indicated they were, in fact, tax resident in Ireland in certain years.

The precondition to be satisfied before an appeal against an assessment could be permitted was the filing of returns and the payment of tax, he said.

There was no dispute no returns were filed and no tax was paid in respect of the relevant years and that meant all the commissioner had to decide was whether “bare assertions” by the Sheridans they were not tax resident in Ireland should be accepted or not. Those assertions were made “without a scrap of supporting evidence or oral evidence” yet there was documentary evidence of tax residency here, the tax returns that had been filed, he said.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times